Nerd Culture

Comedian Chris Hardwick on Geekdom, The Walking Dead, and Getting Bill Murray for His Podcast

Admittedly, Chris Hardwick doesn’t get much sleep. And given his many projects and responsibilities, you can’t blame him for that.

According to the comedian, television personality, actor, writer, podcaster, geek icon, and co-founder of entertainment website Nerdist Industries, he only gets about five hours of sack time each night.

Needless to say, Hardwick’s a busy man, and, more often than not, he’s usually busy with some sort of geeky pursuit, usually in connection with Nerdist. On any given day he could be bowling with Felicia Day, gaming with Wil Wheaton, learning how to properly tie a bowtie from Bill Nye, talking science with Neil deGrasse Tyson, or interviewing some sort of high-profile celebrity for his podcast. And just yesterday, he got to help present Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Somewhere in there, he also finds time to host two different television programs — the post-Walking Dead wrap-up show Talking Dead and Comedy Central’s improv comedy game show @midnight with Chris Hardwick — and voice characters on such animated shows as Sanjay and Craig or Family Guy.

Oh, and he also performs a number of stand-up comedy gigs across the country each year, which is what he’ll be doing on Saturday, November 14, at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Phoenix.

Hardwick found time in his busy schedule to speak with New Times via telephone about his performance, as well as what’s been happening on The Walking Dead this season (including a major spoiler, FYI), who he’s dying to interview on his podcast, and his favorite aspect of geekdom.

So what's the geekiest thing you've done today?

I presented a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame to Daniel Radcliffe. So that was pretty fun and geeky.

Did you make any Harry Potter jokes during the ceremony?
No, no, no...I made one, and I even felt bad for making that one.

What was it?
Well, he had a couple of people speak for him before they presented the star and I basically just declared myself a Ravenclaw but that I liked him anyway. Which is cool, that's my house.

So, given all your projects and gigs – including podcasting, running the Nerdist empire, hosting @midnight and Talking Dead, performing gigs, and writing — when exactly do you sleep?
Hmm…I usually sleep from about midnight to 5 o'clock [in the morning] and then, if I'm lucky, I can force myself to go back to sleep for another hour and a half. But, usually, I'm sort of a five-hour sleeper.

You’ve had so many legendary and celebrity guests on your podcasts? Are there any you haven’t featured but are dying to talk to?
Yes, Bill Murray.

Why is that?
Uh...because I'm dying to talk to him. He's a legend and one of my favorite comedy people of all time.

Why haven't you been able to get him for the podcast?
I haven't asked him. He doesn't have agents or representatives, just an 800 number and then you call and pitch whatever you want him to do and he'll call you back and I haven't figured out how to ask him yet.

He really has an 800 number? That's not a gag?
Nope, it's not a gag. He really has an 800 number. That's how stuff happens with him.

How heartbroken were you at Glenn's apparent death on The Walking Dead?
Well, we don't know that he's dead.

We saw a horde of zombies chowing down on him with huge spurts of blood coming from his body.
I've also seen a season that's time-jumped every episode, so I don't know what's happening. I don't know what's coming up. I just know that they're not telling a linear story this entire season, so I honestly have no idea what is happening.

A lot of people have been freaking out about things that have been happening on the show this season. Is it possible to get way too into a television show?
I think it's possible to get way too into anything sometimes, but I mean, as long as you don't think it's the zombie apocalypse and run around slashing people with a katana, then it's probably okay to really love a show. I mean, if people didn't, our show [Talking Dead] wouldn't exist.

Would you ever appear on The Walking Dead as a character if you could?
I have a two-part answer for that. First part is I would absolutely love to; the second part is I wouldn't do it, because I'm too recognizable from Talking Dead and I feel like that would take people out of the story. And I would never want to be the thing that ruined the story of the show for the fans.

What's your show in Phoenix this Saturday going to be like? Is there going to be a lot of geek-related topics and comedy being discussed?
Ehh...that's a difficult question to answer, because the show is an hour and a half and it covers everything. It's a long-form stand-up show and there may be a little Q&A portion at the end. I don't know, it’s a very tough question to answer. It’s going to be fun, that's all I can really say.

So is it sort of a freeform performance and you'll decide what you're doing at that moment?
No, no, no...there's a lot of stuff and it's about my life and my observations, I guess. Some of it's geeky, some of it isn't. It's a weird question of ask a comic because in an hour there's a lot stuff that gets covered and if you start saying that, “It's this and this and this,” then when people read it, they go, “Well, it wasn't.” I don't know. It’s very hard to condense it into a few words. You know what I mean? I'm just doing stand-up for like an hour, hour and a half, and it's interactive [since] I talk with the crowd. There are jokes about my life and stuff that I do and I guess some of it is geeky and some of it is not.

What's your favorite thing about geekdom?
Well, it's kind of the section of [geekdom] that I run in is my favorite part of it, which is the section of not being ashamed to be passionate about stuff. I was very ashamed of the stuff that I was into growing up because I felt…like I was completely ostracized by other kids. I didn't get along with them, I didn't really understand them, I really just had a couple of friends in a pre-Internet era. And so my favorite thing now is connecting with other people who are just as passionate as I am and really celebrating that. The true power of geek culture is really trying to understand something more than anyone else and then connecting with other people on that level. So I just think it's the depth that which we're willing to be fans of things.

Chris Hardwick is scheduled to perform at 8 p.m. on Saturday, November 14, at the Orpheum Theatre. Tickets are $35.50.
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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.